His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student, and eleven years later (1933) at Allahabad he became his formally initiated disciple.
At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura requested Srila Prabhupada to broadcast Vedic knowledge through the English language. In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work and, in 1944, without assistance, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine, edited it, typed the manuscripts and checked the galley proofs. He even distributed the individual copies and struggled to maintain the publication. Once begun, the magazine never stopped; it is now being continued by his disciples in the West and is published in over thirty languages.
Recognizing Srila Prabhupada's philosophical learning and devotion, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society honored him in 1947 with the title "Bhaktivedanta". In 1950, at the age of fifty-four, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. Srila Prabhupada traveled to the holy city of Vrindavan, where he lived in very humble circumstances in the historic medieval temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume translation of and commentary on the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad-Bhagavatam. He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.
After publishing three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam,
Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than sixty volumes of authoritative translations, commentaries and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.
In 1965, when he first arrived by freighter in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. It was after almost a year of great difficulty that he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in July of 1966. Before his passing away on November 14, 1977, he guided the Society and saw it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred ashramas, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities.
In 1968, Srila Prabhupada created New Vrindavan, an experimental Vedic community in the hills of West Virginia. Inspired by the successs of New Vrindavan, now a thriving farm community of more than two thousand acres, his students have since founded several similar communities around the world.
Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridham Mayapur in West Bengal is the site for a spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend over the next decades. In Vrindavan, India, is the magnificent Krishna-Balarama Temple and International Guesthouse. There is also a major cultural and educational center in Bombay. Other centers are planned in a dozen important locations worldwide.
Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution, however, is his books. Highly respected by the academic community for their authoritativeness, depth and clarity, they are used as standard textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over eighty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust,
established in 1972 exclusively to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.
In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. In spite of such a vigorous schedule, Srila Prabhupada continued to write prolifically. His writings constitute a veritable library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature and culture.